Day 7 at Home in a COVID-19 World

My family has spent a week at home limited with only required trips to the store. All children’s activities, all sports programs, all in dining restaurant services, all church services have been canceled. I worry the lock down will become even more strenuous. For me this first week was not difficult as my job being in technology allows me the ability to work remote from home. I like to be at home and I like to be around my family. While the first week was enjoyable working from home it is clear that the longer, we as a society are forced to restrain our relational nature the more difficult isolation will make our lives. My wife worries about the sickness infecting our home. I worry about the financial ramification to the economy and the ability to pay bills.

With that in mind here are some Biblical thoughts on concerns, worry, and anxiety. Where is your trust placed?

Worry vs. Anxiety

worry

Some of the literal translations of the Bible do not do not contain the word “worry” anywhere in the contents. Search a KJV or ESV Bible for the word worry and it will not be found. Many people think that the Bible tells us not to worry because God is in control. While it is true to a degree it is not true in the way we might think. Dictionary.com defines worry as “to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts” and that sounds awful. The Bible does use a similar word, “anxiety”, that many people use interchangeably with “worry” in every day speech. In fact many of the newer translations use “worry” and “anxiety” interchangeably. The KJV does not use the newer words “worry” or “anxiety” but uses older words like “Be careful for nothing” or in Christian speak one might say they “cast their cares to God”. But in modern language worry and anxiety have taken over the conversation. Anxiety is the primary word used by the ESV when it translates the Greek μεριμνάω (me-rēm-nä’-ō). This Greek word, μεριμνάω, means “to be anxious or to be troubled with cares”.

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 ESV

I do not think of myself as a worrier. Crazy scenarios like bears attacking me in my sleep while camping might pop in my mind but then I just shrug my shoulders and go back to sleep. My wife on the other hand worries about all kinds of plausible ill-fated scenarios while camping. Moms by nature are known for their ability to worry. Is that a bad thing to be concerned about the pitfalls of life and want to avoid them? I don’t think so and I doubt God would want his people to not worry about clear and present dangers. The greatest danger of all that every person alive should worry about is where they stand with God. If you are not saved by Christ then you should be gravely worried.

I may not worry about much but I am anxious. I have been an anxious person my entire life. My anxiety is in full force when it comes to interactions (like parties) with people. The nervousness of it all wears me out. Dictionary.com defines anxious as “full of mental distress or uneasiness because of fear of danger or misfortune”. Reasonable worries might be used in a productive way to keep one safe. Anxiety however is full on mental trouble that may be crippling in any productive life. Psychology Today has a great article that breaks down the difference between Worry and Anxiety. Here are two key points.

“If you’re concerned about getting fired because you did really poorly on a project, you’re worried. If you’re concerned about getting fired because your boss didn’t ask about your child’s piano recital, you’re anxious.”

“Worry tends to be more focused on thoughts in our heads, while anxiety is more visceral in that we feel it throughout our bodies.”

That last one really hits home for me. My anxiety around people impacts me physically. On occasion I have a duty that requires that I speak publicly. The last time this was required my anxiety got the better of me and while practicing the presentation my blood pressure spiked so high that I went into a full headache and nose bleed while practicing my first run through (I know that sounds crazy but it is true). The energy I need to get on stage and speak to a crowd is consuming of all my physical and mental energy. The insanity of this is that logically I know that I am prepared, capable, and encouraged to present. Why my body reacts with such stress is beyond me.

The question then dear reader is your life full of worry or anxiety? How much do the cares and troubles of this world paralyze your life? Hopefully we are all fortunate that worry is limited to practical and productive problem solving in a sin cursed world. While I do live an anxious life (at one time even writing this blog in front of the world would have been too much for me) I prayerfully live that life in submission to God’s desires for me. I serve him and if he wants me on a stage speaking before a crowd then I will summon courage not from myself but from Christ.

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Luke 12:22-25 ESV

The reality is that anxiety does not add to life but takes away hours and days. Jesus speaking to the disciples tells them not to be anxious in serving him. If they can learn to trust him and draw strength from him for the basics like food and clothing then the they can trust him with power that changes lives.

26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Luke 12:26 ESV

It is natural and normal to worry about practical issues that are right in front of you. But take to heart the words of Paul and submit your cares and anxiety to Christ. Bring him everything. Nothing is too small or too trivial for God provides even our daily bread.

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 ESV

Philippians 4:13 | I Can Do All Things

Under Armor has a marketing campaign that caught my eye for one of the superstar athletes. The shirt that caught my attention states “I can do all things”. The athlete associated with that quote is Steph Curry a championship basketball superstar who won a title with the Golden State Warriors in the 2016-2017 season. What caught my attention is the quote is well-known as part of the King James Bible in the Christian community.

“I can do all things” Philippians 4:13a KJV

When I saw this quote on the shirt, I wanted to ask the person to turn around so I could read the second half of that famous verse. But I paused realizing it would not be there. “I can do all things” branded with Under Armor is the perfect slogan of contemporary America. I applaud Curry’s efforts to put his faith front and center, but no way Under Armor is going to give the Bible credit for this marketing campaign or complete the verse it its entirety. In the current form the quote is perfect branding for Under Armor to compete with Nike’s “Just do it”. Is this not the mantra of society? A mantra that tells people “you are sufficient”, “you are perfect”, or “you can do anything you set your mind to do”. The mentality plays right into the larger society messages… Do it if it feels good. Go for it. Nothing can stop you. “I can do all things”. For those unaware the second half of Curry’s quote is “I can do all things” in Christ.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13 KJV

I can do all things through Christ is the actual truth. Secular marketing is happy to promote that people can do anything apart from God but the marketing is not true. We are limited. We cannot work our way to Heaven. We cannot oppose God without consequence. We cannot do all things apart from Christ. Human effort will be insufficient to accomplish anything outside of God’s will.

16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. Romans 9:16 NIV

Curry’s success is a direct result of God not of Curry’s desire, will, effort, or privilege. Those things matter but the success is dependent on God’s mercy. Without God’s grace on our lives then everything our hands touch would be worthless.

One other point regarding this contradiction between the world “I can do all things” and the Christian “I can do all things in Christ” is the full context of Paul’s writing. Paul is not saying he can accomplish anything he wants to accomplish as long as Jesus is his copilot. Paul is not talking about working harder, smarter, or better than everyone else. Paul is talking about contentment and bearing up in whatever place one finds themselves when following God’s plan.

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12 NIV

Paul is telling the audience of his letter that he is not currently in need of anything but he knows what it is to be in need. Paul has been wealthy and, he has been desperately poor. He has lived a privileged life and, he has lived the life of a hated minority. Paul is telling us that he knows how to be content on either extreme of life. Whatever the situation Paul has discovered a secret to being content in hunger, being content well fed. Paul has a secret to live life in any situation and that secret is the quote Under Armor has twisted and broken. Paul goes on to tell his audience the secret in the very next verse. Paul’s secret to living in tough times…

13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NIV

Are you in prison? Paul says the secret to getting through is strength found in Christ. Are you in debt and loosing your home? Paul says the secret to moving on in life is strength found in Christ. Are your children running from God in rebellion? Then your strength is found in Christ. Is life hopeless and you want to end it all? Stop! Fall on your knees and draw strength from Christ. “I can do all things” through Christ. There is no situation, no hardship, no success, no failure, no mortal wound, no broken heart is too much for Christ.